Victory Brewing Prima Pils

May 26, 2010

From around the tenth century through the late middle ages beer had always been one dominant style: ale. Spontaneous top-fermenting beer utilizing practically any ingredients was de rigueur. Problem was any old ingredients usually led to cloudy, muddled concoctions with a severe lack of balance. The taste was, for the most part, lousy. Two things kept the style going: It was safer than drinking plain water (no, I’m not making that up) and the alcohol it provided.

Beer production also suffered in the year’s warmer months. Yeast, the living ingredient which gobbles up grain sugars converting them into both alcohol and CO2, doesn’t like the heat. Fermentation just wouldn’t occur. Luckily, some time around the beginnings of the Renaissance, a couple of Bavarian monks realized that those caves they had nearby were of cooler air temperature… much like the colder months of the year… hmm. Thus, lager beer was born.

Derived from the Old German meaning “to cellar or store,” as in underground, lagers were cleaner-flavored bottom-fermenting beers. The process also upped the alcohol content like nobody’s business. Because of this some stolid Germans resistant to change actually banned the new style. Plus, not everyone lived close to icy-cold caves in which to achieve lager beer.

October 5, 1842. Some Bohemian beer enthusiasts grew fed up with the rule banning lager. That coupled with a near-riot over the country’s declining quality of beer led to a new style. Brewers in the town of Plzen, at the time part of Moravia, developed a clear, golden beer rich with herbal and floral notes and named it after their town of origin. Modern pilsners indicative of the style include Bitburger and Pilsner Urquell.

Here’s where I talk about an American Pils upholding tradition, right? Nope. Instead, we’ve got Victory’s Prima Pils. It does pour up a shimmering gold color with scents of grass, pine, light toast and mint. However, Prima is aggressively-hopped and punching the daylights out of the traditional European pilsner flavors. Initially bready and malt-sweet, big spicy hop bitterness takes over. It’s dusty and dry with some lemon and grassy touches. The texture is sharp ginger ale fizz. A thirst-quenching alternative to pale ales, Prima pairs well with barbeque or pizza.
As pilsner was originally born in contempt of tradition, perhaps the “Victory” here is in not being doomed to repeat history.